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Get your point across by shedding anonymity

Sun., July 11, 2010, midnight

How did we ever function before the Internet?

These days, thanks to Google, I can find out in an instant those hard-to-understand lyrics in obscure songs, locate a small city in the middle of Italy, or learn just how old that public figure really is. I wonder how I ever slept not having this important trivia at my fingertips. Just last week, after a bike ride on the new Fish Lake Trail, I had a short list of nature questions for the Internet, one related to the level of venom in juvenile rattlesnakes. Yes, the younger the snake, the more deadly the venom.

Speaking of venom — this is one reason I don’t like the Internet. Anonymous posts, comments and blogs seem to serve no purpose but advance agendas, attack without accountability and spread false information at the speed of DSL. Have you noticed that most comments posted to news articles are negative? Do these individuals commenting on the web ever have anything positive to say?

They make up names (like Mr. “U. Don’t,” an anonymous complainant to the BBB last week; street address “Need My Information.”) Nobody holds Anonymous responsible for the negativity or lies he or she spreads. And how about getting into an arguing match with a mystery person in a public forum on the Internet? Responsible people feel it necessary to establish their credibility by telling opponents who they are or how they are so well informed, while Anonymous continues to spew behind his or her hiding place. Hardly a fair fight.

“If you have something to say, either have the conviction to put your identity with it, or keep it to yourself,” has always been my stand. The BBB will not accept anonymous complaints. It is difficult to resolve problems with a ghost. At the heart of unsigned letters and comments, the senders do not seem to seek a solution; they are just looking to vent. If you are one who likes to vent without taking responsibility, you risk:

• Not being taken seriously, because serious input has a name and face attached.

• Being left out of any conversation about a solution. It’s tough to talk to someone who will not come forward.

• Continuing on your path of anger with half the story. It is impossible to clear up mistakes and misconceptions with Ms. Nobody.

• Never being part of a productive working group to resolve or improve, as nobody knows you care.

• Having valuable input disregarded since you did not attach your name to your offered wisdom.

There is a more effective way to express yourself, and it starts with a couple of basic ideas:

• Do not attack the person, focus on the problem.

• Have the guts to stand behind what you say.

• Stand ready to talk about the other side of the issue.

• Listen to input with an open mind; you may not always be right.

• Focus on resolution or progress, not spewing negativity or restating the problem over and over.

• Once you have your comments down, pause and re-read them, checking for overly opinionated or emotional comments added just to get a reaction.

• Know what your goal is before you begin, and if it is just to make someone else look bad, don’t.

When it comes to reading anonymous comments on the Internet, grab that large salt shaker and set it right by your mouse. Positive comments could simply be the company having staff or their public relations people write glowing reports about the product or service. And the negative ones could easily be some sour competitor posting lies to make the company look bad. It happens all the time.

Get your information from more than one source and sprinkle those grains of salt liberally. Remember, when you don’t say who you are, it is easy to lie, inflate situations, or throw out comments that have the potential to really hurt other human beings. Heck, it can’t hurt your credibility so who cares?

We all should; this kind of hidden attack diminishes us all.

Jan Quintrall is president and CEO of the local Better Business Bureau. She can be reached at


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